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2 Corinthians 4:7-15 meaning

Paul declares that the treasure of the gospel is in us. The strength and power of the gospel is not from us. Though we carry treasure in this earthen vessel (our bodies), the power is from God. The gospel is spreading and as we look at things which are not seen, we see a greater glory than our sufferings in this life.

The last section ended with Paul asserting that the same creative God who created light to shine in the darkness has now shone the Light of the glory of God in Christ in the hearts of all who believe. Believing this truth could lead to being puffed up, thinking we are superior. Paul preempts any such conclusion, asserting:

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves (v 7). 

The phrase But we have this treasure in earthen vessels refers to the Light of the glory of God in Christ as the treasure (2 Corinthians 4:6) and our bodies as the earthen vessels. Earthen vessels would refer to ordinary jars of clay that are used daily in the kitchen or pantry where things are stored or kept. They would be mostly anonymous and would crack and fall apart after significant use. The earthen vessels are illustrations for our own human bodies. 

The human body is earthen. God made human bodies out of earth (Genesis 2:7). The usefulness for any vessel stems from its use—what it can or does contain. What the body of each believer contains is the power of God through the Holy Spirit. Like the pots, our bodies also deteriorate. 

Paul's emphasis is that it is not the container that is the source of power, but the contents—its treasure. The treasure of our earthen vessels is that as believers we contain and carry around within our bodies the Spirit of God

The phrase so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves emphasizes that Paul is a conduit for the power of God and not an independent actor. Paul is not only describing himself as a minister or servant of this gospel, but also his fellow ministers as well as the believers and followers of Christ who come after him. Each believer is a steward of a great gift of the power of the Holy Spirit within us. This power can shine through us and is a great treasure. But we are still merely earthen vessels. 

The image is that believers are like a clay container filled with gold where we are like the clay and the power of God is the gold. This image has multiple ramifications. First, it is important to remember that although we have a great privilege to be filled with gold, we are not the gold. While we may minister or serve through the gifts, graces, and abilities given to us by God, we also serve through our humanity and weakness (earthen vessels). Applied to ourselves, it is important to remember which we are; we are the clay pot. 

When applied to other believers, we tend to readily notice that they are flawed, earthen vessels, and forget that they too are figuratively filled with gold—the same gold. It is useful to remember that all the people we interact with are also earthen vessels. Paul contrasts the surpassing greatness of the power as being from God as opposed to being from ourselves. He describes this strength from God compared to the weakness from his own body in verses eight through ten of this chapter. 

We can peek ahead to verse ten first which says believers are always carrying about in the body (earthen vessel) the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh (v 10). Our mortal flesh is another description of earthen vessels, the human bodies our spirits are united with while living in this life on this earth. In the next life believers are promised they will gain a resurrected body in which they will live on a new earth in which righteousness dwells (1 Corinthians 15:18-19, 2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 21:1). 

Paul describes in verses eight and nine what setting aside the flesh and walking in the Spirit looks like since we are earthen vessels and mortal flesh. There is a cause-and-effect related to walking in obedience to Christ. There is a current benefit as well as a future benefit. There is also a current cost: We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not despairing (v 8)

Paul is an earthen vessel, which means he is susceptible to being cracked or shattered. He is afflicted in every way. An affliction is a cause of persistent pain, distress, or suffering. Paul, like Jesus, is not calling Christ's followers to avoid or even to be delivered from suffering, but we are always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus (Luke 9:23). There is a cost to following Jesus (Luke 14:28-33). But the benefit dramatically outweighs the cost, as we will soon see (2 Corinthians 4:17). 

We are not to seek afflictions (as some have done). Rather, if we follow in obedience to Jesus, these afflictions will find us, and we are to be faithful through them, recognizing that it is by persevering through such trials that we gain our greatest fulfillment (James 1:2-4, 12, Romans 8:17, Revelation 3:21). If we avoid difficulty through giving in to sin, the world is our reward and the consequence of that is death. Death is separation, and when we follow the ways of the world we are separated from God's design and His ways that lead to life. Conversely, when we walk in faith, following God's ways, we are separated from the world and dwell in the life of God. But when we separate from/die to the world the world rejects us as a result. 

Even though we may be afflicted in every way, we also have the promise that this is so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body (v 10). When we set aside the things of this world, there is a cost; we are rejected by the world. But when we set aside the world and walk in obedience to Christ, the life of Jesus is manifested or demonstrated to those around us. Since we have this life of Jesus, although we are afflicted in every way, we will not be crushed. Because of the perspective Paul has chosen, he sees afflictions as a means to an end. Therefore, he is not, and no believer ought to be, crushed. 

The Greek word translated crushed indicates being in a very tight spot that is constraining. It could indicate a situation from which there is no escape, humanly-speaking. It might raise a picture of having no options. However, this is not the case at all. 

The world can reject, but it cannot impose. The world can deny us its approval and inflict temporary pain, but it cannot deny God from resurrecting believers and exalting the faithful. It cannot contain eternal life, which is both a gift and a reward given by God. No one and no thing can prevent us from walking faithfully and being a witness of the life of Jesus. If the world rejects us, it is doing to us the same as it did to Jesus.

Was Jesus crushed? Jesus's death on the cross certainly looked like the end of the road with no human escape, but God the Father raised Him from the dead. No matter what we are going through, we will not be crushed if we continue to walk in faith, showing the life of Christ. When we walk in the resurrection power of God, nothing can separate us from being a faithful witness; not rejection, loss, or death. As Revelation promises, when we are faithful witnesses and do not fear rejection, loss, or death we gain a great blessing (Revelation 1:3, 3:21). 

Paul next says we are perplexed, but not despairing. Perplexed gives the sense of being confused, uncertain what to do next. To be perplexed can include not understanding the why of our being in difficult circumstances. Perhaps we are dealing with illness, or a difficulty inflicted upon us by someone else. Since we as humans are finite, our perception is severely limited. 

We have a complete inability to gain comprehensive understanding. The book of Ecclesiastes, written roughly a thousand years prior to the time of the Apostle Paul, asserts that when we rely on our own reason and experience to explain the world, it leads only to folly, madness, futility, and evil (see commentary on Ecclesiastes 2:12-17). 

But when we trust God, we can make sense of things. That is why we might be perplexed but we are not despairing. We will not always understand why we do something that God wants us to do or why something is happening to us, particularly afflictions. We may be confused with God, with people, with situations, but we look beyond our circumstances and believe in the promises, as Paul points to in 2 Corinthians 4:18.

The dying of Jesus can be perplexing, but the life of Jesus is not despairing. For Paul, this is something he had experienced, as we saw in Chapter 1, where he described numerous afflictions he had endured (2 Corinthians 1:8-10). 

We will get an even greater description of the difficulties he endured in Chapter 11. He knew what it was to despair, but he also trusted that God would deliver him from that despair, either in life or in death. So, with every confidence in Christ, he could point us to the life of Jesus that would triumph over the dying of Jesus.

Paul is persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed (v 9). 

Paul might be abused and forsaken by the world, but he is not forsaken by Christ. He might be struck down and oppressed by the world, but he is not destroyed even in death. We see an application of this at the end of his life when Paul knows he is about to die at the hands of Caesar. Rather than thinking he is forsaken or destroyed, Paul looks forward to receiving the "crown of life" for his faithful walk (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Therefore, even in death Paul is not destroyed. 

It is an amazing picture Paul is painting with his words. When we live the life of Jesus, no one and no thing can stop us from gaining all God has for us. We will come to know Jesus by faith, and God who sent Him, and that gives us the full experience of eternal life (John 17:3). Thus we gain total fulfillment of our design through setting aside self and walking in faith, living the life of Jesus while experiencing also His death through reckoning ourselves dead to sin (our flesh) and the world (Romans 6:12-13). 

Jesus declares the same basic perspective in His Sermon on the Mount: 

"Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
(Matthew 5:10-12

Jesus's point is that rejection by the world for walking in obedience to Him lays up treasure in heaven and leads to immense eternal rewards. 

Persecution can come in many forms and in different levels of severity. Jesus also said:

"and you will be hated by all because of my name" (Luke 21:17). 

So all believers can expect rejection from the world if they walk faithfully in Christ. When we think of being persecuted, we might think of martyrs who were ultimately put to death because of their faith in Christ. However, the English word "martyr" is derived from the Greek "martys," which is most often translated "witness." We do not necessarily have to suffer physical death in order to be a faithful witness unto Christ. When we live faithfully, we will experience separation (death) from the world and therefore experience its rejection. 

It would seem from the two Corinthian letters we have in scripture that Paul faced persecution from within the church as well as from outsiders who rejected his message (2 Corinthians 11:24, 26). In his first epistle, the Apostle Peter exhorts his disciples to be glad when they are persecuted unjustly because they are then following the example of Christ, who was Himself unjustly persecuted (1 Peter 3:14, 17-18). It does not matter from where the persecution arises, our approach should be the same—to keep trusting and walking by faith, living the life of Jesus through the obedience of faith. 

Paul does not pretend this is easy. It is difficult when we make a stand for Christ; we may then be persecuted because of that stand. This is evident in Paul's statement that he views himself as always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body (v 10). 

The picture of carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus raises a picture of having a constant awareness that everywhere we go and in everything we do we consider that our own body contains the dying of Jesus. In thinking of this, any believer is constantly reminded that we are in Christ. We are no longer part of the world—we are new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Accordingly, we are no longer dead in our sins, but we are raised to walk in the newness of life. In having this mental model, we are equipped with a perspective that the life of Jesus might be manifested through our life, through our body and through these sufferings

The life of Jesus was a perfect life lived in perfect obedience. Like us, Jesus had to learn obedience (Philippians 2:8). This is why He is a sympathetic high priest, having been tempted in all ways as we are (Hebrews 4:15). He was able to learn without falling into temptation. We likewise are challenged to follow this same path and learn obedience even to death. Death is separation; an example being the death of our spirit being separated from our body (James 2:26). We are called to separate ourselves from the flesh and the world (dead to sin) that we might walk in the newness of life, living the life of Jesus (Romans 6:11)

Once again, we have the promise that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. No matter what the level of severity of the persecution, we will not be forsaken. The cry of Jesus when He was on the cross comes to mind, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46). While we cannot fully imagine what Jesus was going through at the moment, He was experiencing death on the cross; a death He endured that we might live. God the Father answered His prayer. He did not forsake Him but resurrected Him from the grave.

In his persecution and trials, Paul says he has been struck down, but not destroyed. 

This phrase brings to mind physical combat, such as wrestling, boxing, or military combat. We may be knocked down or severely wounded, but we will not be destroyed

Perhaps Paul is thinking of an extreme experience he endured where he experienced death or near death as related in Acts, 

"But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. But while the disciples stood around him, he got up and entered the city."
(Acts 14:19-20)

It could be this episode or one like it that Paul that will refer to later in this letter where he was allowed to go to heaven for a time and hear things he was not allowed to repeat (2 Corinthians 12:1-6). However, eventually he did die as a martyr, and even then he was not destroyed. Rather, Paul was transported into God's presence where he was given the crown of life (2 Timothy 4:8). 

These and other experiences confirmed what Paul wrote, taught, and preached. As he has described these hardships, he points us toward the way to persevere, always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our body (v 10). Having lived the reality of these statements, Paul later calls these extreme difficulties "momentary, light affliction" when compared to the "eternal weight of glory" that God promises for those who walk faithfully in Him (2 Corinthians 4:17)

If and when any of us are afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, or struck down we do not naturally think of enduring such circumstances as being for the sake of Jesus. We naturally think thoughts like "Why me?" But Paul here is teaching us to deliberately choose an eternal perspective that such difficulties are "momentary, light affliction" when compared to the glory of the rewards/benefits God promises for those who faithfully endure (2 Corinthians 4:17)

It would not have been natural for Paul either, it is also something he chose. Paul intentionally, by faith, chose a perspective that the rewards he could gain later were vastly superior to any difficulty he might endure now in following Jesus. He believed the truth of the gospel that suffering for Jesus in this life leads to immense rewards in the next (2 Corinthians 5:10, 1 Corinthians 2:9, 3:14-15, Romans 8:17b). 

By choosing this perspective we also can persevere, thinking of enduring difficulty now as an investment for the future. As Paul says in verse 16, Therefore, we do not lose heart, because we are living with the hope and truth that living faithfully in the resurrection power of Jesus will lead to an "eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17). 

In moments of tribulation and difficulty, we can also turn to what Paul wrote to the Roman believers, 

"Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, 'For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' 

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 

"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
(Romans 8:35-39)

Paul now moves to the next verse where he says that through his perseverance in enduring persecution, he is always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body (v 10)

He further asserts For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh (v 11)

Our body is also our mortal flesh and another description of earthen vessels (v 7). Our physical human bodies are united with our eternal spirits while we live life on this earth. In the next life, believers are promised a resurrected body in which we can live in a new earth, a new earth in which righteousness dwells (1 Corinthians 15:18-19, 2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 21:1). 

Jesus instructed His disciples to deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow after Him in order to have the greatest possible fulfillment in life (Matthew 16:24-25). Paul claims here that he is following that instruction and lives out on a daily basis the reality of the cross. In this walk of obedience the life of Jesus would thus be manifested through his life. 

Paul is a fallen human like any other (Romans 3:9). However, through his walk of faith living in his earthen vessel, that is, his mortal flesh, the life of Jesus can be manifested or demonstrated to those who observe his life when he puts to death his flesh and walks in the Spirit (Galatians 5:13-16). Thus, when Paul's life of obedience is observed, God is glorified, because people see the fruit of the Holy Spirit living through Paul (John 15:8). The same is true for any believer in Jesus. 

Paul sets forth here the paradox that life comes through death. Jesus taught this to His disciples and used an illustration that a seed of wheat must die (be planted) before it comes to life and multiplies fruit (John 12:24). Likewise, those who choose to be fruitful in His kingdom must die to the pleasures of this life and love and serve others in order to gain the multiplied blessings from this life (John 12:25-26). This is a continuous choice of life, as Paul says always carrying about the death of Christ. Not just on Sunday or while in certain groups of people, but always. 

The life of Jesus is manifested or demonstrated through Paul when he is always carrying the death of Christ with him through his life, that the life of Jesus might be demonstrated. The principle we can gain from this is that it is a binary choice whether to live daily the life of Christ or the life of our mortal flesh. In order to live the life of Christ we must put to death the self-seeking desires of our mortal flesh. 

It is a struggle for anyone to put aside our fleshly inclination to be self-seeking. Paul tells about his struggle with the flesh in his letters, including in his letter to the church at Rome, where he said:

"For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want."
(Romans 7:19-20)

It is worth noting that in this passage from Romans, Paul says "nothing good" dwells in him naturally. That is why he must put the natural desires to death, separating himself from them completely, in order to be free to walk in the new nature Christ has placed within him. He does not say "I no longer struggle." Rather Paul says he is always carrying about the death of Christ by crucifying his flesh on an ongoing basis. 

Later in this letter, he will list the persecutions he has endured for his faith (2 Corinthians 11:23-29). By being a bold witness, there was a negative consequence against him from the world. But in just a few verses, Paul will tell us that he endures such difficulties because they lead not only to a present glory, exhibiting Christ and living the peace of Christ in this life, but also to a future glory (2 Corinthians 4:17). 

In the next chapter, Paul will say:

"For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died."
(2 Corinthians 5:14)

In saying "therefore all died" Paul reckons two things:

  1. That he was buried into Christ's death and raised to new life in Christ's resurrection (Romans 6:3-4), and thus was made a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), and
  2. That he is charged to walk daily in obedience to Christ, putting to death his flesh that he might walk in the life of Christ (Romans 6:8-14, 8:4-6, 13). In walking in this manner, we are being controlled by the love of Christ. 

Jesus understood during His ministry here on earth that His destiny was to die for the sins of the world (Mark 8:31). He understood that this was His charge while still in heaven, even before He came to earth to be born as a human (Philippians 2:5-8, Hebrews 10:5-7). 

Just as Paul is constantly setting aside his flesh in his body, he is also constantly enduring persecution and rejection by the world: For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh (v 11)

In the phrase we who live Paul includes any believer who is following in obedience, setting aside the flesh and walking in obedience to Jesus. The gift of eternal life is freely given to all who believe (John 3:14-15). It is a gift that will never be revoked, as the gifts of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29). Subsequent to the new birth that attends gaining the gift of eternal life, experiencing the benefits of that gift requires walking in faith. It requires setting aside self and walking in the power of the Spirit. It is in this way we who live experience the gift of eternal life. 

But when we as believers live the life of Jesus, we will also experience the death of Jesus. Jesus separated Himself from the world and stood against its exploitation and coercion. In doing so, Jesus was delivered over to death. In the same sorts of ways, when we follow Jesus's commands, we should expect to also constantly be delivered over to death for Jesus's sake. 

Death is separation. The world and its system of exploitation will reject us and separate us from belonging to it. In this way, we will be constantly delivered over to death. In some cases this could also lead to physical death, as it has through the centuries. But for most, it is death of separation; from belonging and acceptance in the world system. 

When we walk in obedience to the Spirit, the life of Jesus is then manifested in our mortal flesh. It is manifested to at least three parties. 

  1. It is manifested to other people, as in this letter where Paul said the Corinthians were like a letter of Christ, inferring their lives could be "read" by others and in that they could see Christ (2 Corinthians 3:3). 
  2. It is manifested to the angels, as Paul asserts in Ephesians 3:10, where he says the "rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places" learn of the wisdom of God through watching believers in the Body of Christ. 
  3. It is manifested to God, who delights in our obedience and desires to greatly reward our efforts done in His name, in a manner that is beyond anything we can imagine (1 Corinthians 2:9, Colossians 3:23). 

Continuing his theme of v. 7, But we have this treasure of the life of Jesus in earthen vessels, our mortal flesh, Paul is declaring what it means for us as mere humans to live a life manifesting the death and resurrection power of Jesus. Being afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down for Jesus' sake is "the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death" (Philippians 3:10). 

Jesus faced these very attacks both during His ministry and also while on the cross. Accordingly, when we face such situations we also are being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake. When we endure these sufferings, we are suffering the same types of death, rejection by the world, that Jesus suffered. Through enduring His sufferings, believers are promised that they will also share His reward by sharing the reward of His inheritance (Romans 8:17b, Revelation 3:21). 

We should expect these sorts of sufferings to be continuous; Paul says we are constantly being delivered over to death. This is because the worldly kingdom of darkness is the antithesis of the godly kingdom of light (1 Thessalonians 5:5). Jesus made it clear we must continually choose between the rewards from God or the rewards from the world, we cannot have both (Matthew 6:24). 

When we live by separating/putting to death our flesh, we are carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus. We would not be able live in this manner if it were not for the resurrection life, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our bodies, our mortal flesh. Just prior to Paul's statement in Philippians 3:10 that we have noted, he says, "that I may know Him [Christ] and the power of His resurrection." Resurrection power enables us to live out the dying of Jesus. 

Jesus died to/separated from the kingdom of this world and its ruler, Satan. He died to/separated from the ambitions of the world, to rule apart from the will of God (Matthew 4:8-10). As a result, He was rejected of men (Isaiah 53:3). When we endure such things, then the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 

When we display the life of Jesus through our daily living in our mortal flesh, we are overcoming as Jesus overcame, and laying up treasure in heaven (Revelation 3:21, Matthew 6:19-21). The mortal flesh for all believers will be swallowed up in immortality when each believer receives a resurrection body in the life to come (1 Corinthians 15:54). 

Paul then compares this illustration of carrying Jesus's death with us as being a work of progress that produces the life of Jesus within us. It is also the case that Paul's struggles provide a witness that works to the benefit of his disciples in Corinth. He now says: So death works in us, but life in you (v 12)

Paul is weaving several threads throughout this letter, and one of those is the defense of his ministry, which has been challenged and attacked by some in the Corinthian church as well as some from outside the church. The life in you of those Corinthian believers is nothing less than the resurrection life and power of Jesus working in and through them. 

They were able to receive and embrace this life because death works in us, says Paul. The us would in context refer to he and the others on his ministry team, including Timothy the co-author of this letter (2 Corinthians 1:1). The you would refer to the church at Corinth. He was carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus and through that death working in him, the people in Corinth could come to observe through his witness what it means to live consistently with the reality of all believers, that each one is "a new creature in Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:17). 

To walk daily as a new creation in Christ requires setting aside, putting to death, our old nature. Paul now quotes from Psalm 116, which is a psalm of thanksgiving for deliverance from death. Quoting Psalm 116:10, Paul says:

But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, "I BELIEVED, THEREFORE I SPOKE," we also believe, therefore we also speak (v 13)

What is inferred here is that the same spirit of faith Paul has is the spirit of faith expressed in the quote he gave from Psalm 116:10 ("I believed, therefore I spoke"). Psalm 116 is a song about gratitude for being delivered from death (Psalm 116:3-4). Like the psalmist, Paul is also thankful for being delivered from death. Paul just stated So death works in us, but life in you. Paul's deliverance from death comes through life in Christ, in multiple ways. 

Context would suggest that the death Paul references that works in him and others includes circumstantial difficulty and the threat of physical death through persecution for their faith. Paul referenced this in verse 11 and will expound upon the persecution he has endured in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29

But also inferred is that the death that works in us includes the death of sin that dwells in our mortal flesh (Romans 7:13, 17-18, 21). It is power of the life of Jesus living within us that allows any believer to overcome sin dwelling in our flesh through setting aside our flesh and walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17). 

The next verse implies that Paul includes in his gratitude of being delivered from death (per his quote from Psalm 116) the hope of faith in being resurrected to a new life after his physical death. Paul speaks about his faith and gratitude of overcoming death knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you (v 14).

Now Paul is referring to the final resurrection as he describes in 1 Corinthians 15:23, that each person will be resurrected in due time, following Jesus who was the first human to receive a resurrected body. The resurrection of Jesus in bodily form is called the "first fruit" which guarantees more will follow. All who believe in Jesus have the promise of resurrection. 

The Lord Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day after His crucifixion (Luke 24:46). It was God who raised the Lord Jesus. The same God that raised the Lord Jesus Paul believes will raise us also from the dead. Jesus was delivered from death never to die again. He ascended to heaven in the form of His new body (Acts 1:9). 

In his first letter to Corinth, Paul described the new body believers will receive in the resurrection as being a "spiritual body" (1 Corinthians 15:44). This means the new resurrected body will be of a different type than our mortal bodies, being spiritual while still a body. We might get a hint of this from the fact that Jesus could be touched (Luke 24:39, John 20:27-28) and eat food (Luke 24:43) which are characteristics of a physical body. Yet Jesus could apparently pass through solid walls, which is something a spiritual being can do, but a purely physical being cannot (John 20:19). 

It is due to his spirit of faith that Paul speaks of his hope that in Christ, believers have deliverance from all these forms of death. We are delivered from physical death through the hope of being resurrected. We are delivered from persecution through the hope of Jesus being "manifested in our body" (2 Corinthians 4:10) and bringing light and life into the world. 

And finally, we have the hope that Jesus will present us to God to be rewarded for the deeds done in faith while we lived on earth (2 Corinthians 5:10, Colossians 3:23). Paul exhorts the Corinthians to live faithfully because we will all be judged for our deeds. He includes himself, saying God will present us. It seems that God will raise us up then present us to Christ to have our deeds judged. Paul will confirm this in the next chapter, saying that all believers (including himself) will stand before the "judgment seat of Christ" to be rewarded for our deeds, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10). 

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul mentioned several times that his accountability is before Christ, and he lived his life in such a way as to please Christ and be rewarded by Him:

  • In 1 Corinthians 4:4-5, Paul asserts that he knows of nothing against himself but acknowledges that he will find out the truth when he stands before Jesus to be judged. 
  • In 1 Corinthians 3:7-9, Paul made clear that the Corinthians were not to concern themselves with which teacher they followed, whether they followed him or Apollos. Rather they should concern themselves with having to appear before Christ, as every believer must do (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). 
  • In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul explains that he pays his own expenses because his motivation is an eternal one, desiring to gain the greatest reward from Christ (1 Corinthians 9:17, 25). 

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul speaks of the body of Christ, and mentions being in "the same Spirit" several times, using similar words to v 13 where he mentioned he had the same spirit of faith as the writer of Psalm 116 (who expressed hope that God would deliver him from death). His emphasis in 1 Corinthians 12, is that though there are varieties of gifts and ministries in the church, we are all to have unity surrounding our ministry to one another under the headship of Christ. 

Paul could stand in the same spirit of faith with the psalmist of Psalm 116 to hope for deliverance from death, even though that psalm was written some thousand years earlier. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul exhorts believers to have unity of the faith with people they serve within the same era of time. This tells us that there is a unity of faith-life that spans time, and when we engage in the spirit of faith with scripture we connect in faith with believers in our own era as well as believers in other eras. We can have the same spirit of faith they had. 

Paul follows the assertion that all believers will be resurrected and presented to Christ by stating:
For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God (v 15). 

The phrase For all things are for your sakes is in context of believers being presented before Christ in the judgment. Each believer has been granted an inheritance in Christ. That inheritance includes a part that is unconditional and a part that is conditional. We can see this in the following passage from Romans:

"The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him."
(Romans 8:16-17).

From this Romans 8 passage, it is evident that every believer in Jesus is a child of God and has an unconditional inheritance with God. Believers are children of God because they are given this inheritance freely by grace through faith in Christ (John 3:14-15). Being in God's family is a free gift that is given unconditionally. All gifts of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29). 

We also see in Romans 8:16-17 that believers can be "fellow heirs with Christ" but that inheritance is only received if we also suffer with Him. This is the reward God promises to those who overcome temptation and the world, even as Jesus overcame (Revelation 3:21). 

Because Jesus overcame through obedience unto death, He was given authority over all things (Matthew 28:18, Philippians 2:8-9). In like manner, Jesus promises that all who follow Him in putting to death self and walking in obedience to Him will gain immense rewards and share in His reign (Matthew 25:21, Mark 10:29-30). Thus, literally, all things are for each believer who is in Christ. 

This is asserted when Paul says all things are for your sakes. Jesus restored the right of humans to reign in the earth (Hebrews 2:9-10). He desires to bring "many sons" to the "glory" of reigning with Him. In this passage from Hebrews 2:10, "sons" references the image of a faithful servant being rewarded with authority to reign under the superior king, and is not limited to males (Matthew 25:21). 

In the term all things are for your sakes, Paul infers that Jesus intends for the earth to be restored as the dominion of those who will reign in loving service, working together as God originally designed. Each faithful servant will enter into the joy of their Master, and assume responsibility to reign with Him in His kingdom (Matthew 25:21). Scripture prophesies that there will be a new earth in which humans will reign with Christ in righteousness (2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 5:10, 21:1). 

This blessing of the great rewards of the inheritance including all things are not just for the Corinthian believers, but for all believers. That is why the verse goes on to say so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. This infers that the more people that come to faith through the actions of Paul and the Corinthians, the more benefit will flow to them. This is a cause for the giving of thanks. Ultimately all this will abound to the glory of God. 

Glory refers to something or someone's essence being observed. Paul explained this in I Corinthians, where he described that the sun, moon, and stars each have a different sort of "glory" (1 Corinthians 15:41). This is because each has a different essence. When humans come to faith, walk in obedience, and are ultimately restored to God's original design, glory abounds. This shows God's glory (glory of God). It also produces in us an "eternal weight of glory" as we will see in the next section (2 Corinthians 4:17). 

When all things operate according to God's design, the essence of each is seen. God designed the earth to be ruled by His people operating in love and service toward one another. When this transpires, He will be glorified, and He will glorify His people.

Paul's description of the power of God to work through this treasure in earthen vessels is truly an amazing grace. The grace that is spreading to more and more people refers to God's favor toward humans in giving them a path to full restoration of their design through faith in Christ. Paul was a minister of this good news (gospel) and it was spreading throughout the Roman world. 

Since God's strength was manifested in our body, an earthen vessel, the spreading to more and more people is not something to boast about in our own measure but will cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. This is a great perspective, but a difficult one to follow. When we see the grace which is spreading to more and more people, we are prone to give glory to the evangelist or program. However, in all cases humans are the instrument and God does the work through us. Therefore there is never a basis for us to boast. 

This passage can certainly help ground us in the humility of carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. As Jesus Himself said:

"If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."
(Matthew 16:24-25)

Paul gives us directions and examples showing us how to put this admonition of Jesus into action. The result of denying ourselves is to gain all things through obedience to Christ. 

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